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Real Business : 2013 Issue 1
emphasis on shared space, rather than individual desks and cubicles. Dubbed activity-based working, employees predominantly use mobile devices and connect with each other according to the activity they are working on at the time. More established – particularly in public ser vice departments – is the idea of flexible working, where staff are given the freedom to choose their hours over a given week or month. Advice for recruits These examples are just some of the ways employers – big and small – have been seeking to improve the working lives of their staff in the era of 24/7 communications. They typically form part of the organisation’s employee value proposition (EVP). Increasingly common, these statements outline the target organisational culture, values and benefits employees can expect. Riley says these policies are a great way for graduates to get a feel for a potential employer and their working culture. “Businesses will put work-life balance and flexible working into that policy,” he says, but also warns potential recruits against taking those words for granted. “ When push comes to shove, it’s the companies that make their EVPs live and breathe that really attract the best staff.” For staff at organisations without such a living promise, the question remains. Just how many hours are reasonable? The answer, Riley and Meyer concur, is going to be different for every organisation. The best answer for newcomers is to stick with the hours contracted and ensure they are spent effectively and efficiently. Avoid the temptation to do anything half-heartedly with the expectation that the energy can be made up through after-hours work . “It’s a candidate’s market [for skilled talent], so stay true to your values,” Riley advises. “But you also need to be realistic and flexible for your employer.” technology. Simon Meyer, managing director for PageGroup (including Michael Page Recruitment) in Australia, says the near-universal uptake of mobile communications, particularly smartphones and tablets, means staff are linked to their work 24 hours a day. “ Technology is the silent increaser of work hours,” Meyer says. It allows greater flexibility to be built into people’s work , but in most examples it increases the overall amount of time spent doing the job. “I regularly take a 6am flight [from Sydney] to Perth, and you now see people tapping away at their BlackBerr y and iPhone [in the departure lounge],” Meyer says. “ You wouldn’t have seen anyone so conscientious 10 years ago, because it just wasn’t possible.” The same is true at all hours of the day, and not just during work-related travel. Short emails that take just a few minutes to pass on during a restaurant meal for example, can quickly stack up, morphing into longer, dedicated work sessions outside the office. Balancing act Employers aren’t about to knock back all of this extra , out-of-office labour. At the same time, most realise there is a potential long-term cost involved. All work and no play can leave valued employees with high levels of stress and at risk of burnout. That can affect the quality of their work , as well as their engagement with the organisation and its strategy. Overworked staff are also more likely to look for new opportunities elsewhere. With the total cost of recruitment close to a full year ’s salary for mid-management level, that can work out to some expensive overtime for the organisation. “From an HR perspective, I would imagine employers would want to manage that,” Riley says. That’s exactly what some of the biggest employers in Australia have been doing – u sing new workplace designs and flexible arrangements to get their staff doing jobs and working hours that suit both parties. For some companies that has meant a complete overhaul of the working culture, changing the idea of “work” from being a physical place to a dynamic process that can happen anywhere. Several big employers are in the process of transforming their offices with designs that put greater 24 Real Business ISSUE 1, 2013 Blurring the line BEtWEEn Work & homE At Work Checking personal email and social media online banking short errands At homE or on thE movE Checking and responding to work emails Cross time-zone calls Research and document preparation WorkIng hoUrS WEBlInk learn more about activity-based working at cpaaustralia.com . au/realbusiness
Issue 3 2012